The House of Lords' judgement on a horse and a
highway on Monday is instructive. One April evening in 1944 Mr. Ernest Searle, living in a village in Warwickshire, went for a ride on his bicycle after dark and ran into a horse. Mr. Searle was hurt, and taking the view that the horse should not be where it was, sued its owner on the ground that owners should not let their animals stray. The County Court Judges agreed that the horse got on the highway because the fencing of its field was defective, but ruled that owners are under no obligation to fence in their horses. Whereon Mr. Searle appealed to the Court of Appeal, but that learned body said the County Court Judge was right. Whereon Mr. Searle appealed to the House of Lords, and Lord Maugham, Lord Thankerton, Lord Porter, Lord Uthwatt and Lord du Parcq spent some time considering equine vagaries and their consequences. But they all agreed with one another, and all agreed with both lower courts. A horse, they ruled, need not be fenced in, and an owner has no duty to prevent an animal not normally dangerous from wandering on the highway. The horse clearly emerges without a stain on its character, and Mr. Searle, I am afraid, with a depleted bank-balance.